California state energy officials have asked the state’s top grid operator to contract for additional power capacity in the months of July and August due to concerns it won’t meet the demand during evenings.
In a letter, the heads of the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission asked the California Independent System Operator (ISO) to provide more power supplies via its tariff-based authority to obtain more resources during the two months and possibly September if conditions don’t improve.
“California is using all available tools to increase electricity reliability this summer,” the letter stated (pdf), citing “unprecedented heat events, which are occurring throughout the West in combination with drought conditions that reduce hydroelectric capacity.”
The letter, without providing evidence, stated that the drought and heat events are being caused by climate change.
The letter didn’t mention solar power. However, the request to the California ISO to provide additional energy during the evening hours may be telling, as that’s when solar power production sharply drops off.
Two California agencies didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.
Due to drought conditions, hydroelectric capacity has been reduced by about 1,000 megawatts, the officials noted.
“Summer has barely begun and we have already had repeated extreme heat events creating dangerous conditions and shattering records across the country,” their statement read. “Climate change is here and with increasing intensity that presents a host of new challenges we must collectively meet head-on.”
Obtaining additional power capacity “is taken out of an abundance of caution to ensure electric reliability and preserve the public health and safety of all Californians,” the officials noted in the letter.
The request comes as California’s ISO, in a statement late last month, warned that rising temperature and drought conditions could lead to limited energy resources and called on customers to reduce their electricity usage. Otherwise, rotating power outages will be implemented, it said.
When power outages hammered the state last summer, questions were raised about California’s increasing dependence on renewable energy sources such as solar and hydroelectric power. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has repeatedly said the state won’t renege on its commitment to using green energy, as a state law recently passed stipulated that the grid has to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2045.
California’s blackouts last year were the first in nearly 20 years since the energy crisis of 2001, which was blamed on power manipulation and mismanagement by corporations such as Enron.
Newsom admitted last year that California’s transition away from fossil fuel sources may have contributed to the blackouts.
“In the process of the transition, in the process of shutting down, understandably, the desire and need to shut down polluting gas plants … comes the need to have more insurance, comes the need to recognize that there have been—by definition, demonstrably, in the last few days and what we expect over the next few days—gaps in terms of that reliability,” Newsom said in mid-August 2020.
Still, the governor said at the time that California won’t back down from the energy transition.